Most of the Knicks' damage has come against the Celtics’ starters, particularly down the stretch in Game One and early in the third quarter in Game Two. Last week we focused on the Celtics top three-man units, including the Avery Bradley-Jeff Green-Paul Pierce trio that had a Net Rating of +14.8 in 484 minutes during the regular season. Let’s a take look at how those units have performed in games one and two and which combinations we can expect to see more of up in Boston.
These were the Celtics six most played three-man units during games one and two. Certainly, small sample sizes apply to these figures, but in a seven game series, adjustments need to be made quickly without the aid of large sample sets.
Lineup Minutes NetRtg* Reg Season NetRtg
Bradley-Green-Pierce 54 -28.4 +14.8
Bass-Green-Pierce 54 -34.9 +9.3
Bass-Bradley-Pierce 50 -29.1 +7.4
Bass-Bradley-Green 49 -24.4 +4.5
Garnett-Green-Pierce 39 -19.1 +4.3
Bradley-Garnett-Pierce 36 -34.9 +2.7
*NetRtg measures the difference between a lineup’s offensive and defensive efficiency
One key thing to note is how little Garnett has played, mostly because of foul trouble. In Game Two, he played just 24 minutes, but was still able to score 12 points and grab 11 rebounds. Expect to see a lot more of KG in games three and four now that the games are in the TD Bank Garden, instead of Madison Square Garden.
The best Celtics’ lineups have featured Jason Terry, mostly as part of ultra-small units that have played while Garnett has sat with fouls. Even more small sample size caution should be shown when analyzing these figures, but there is still an important story to be told here.
Lineup Minutes NetRtg
Green-Pierce-Terry 35 +2.5
Bass-Green-Terry 21 +11.2
Bass-Bradley-Terry 19 +18.8
Bradley-Garnett-Terry 16 +27.3
Bass-Crawford-Terry 15 +51.6
The Celtics have found their most productive units to be these ultra-small, guard-heavy lineups. These combinations have forced Tyson Chandler (and to a lesser extent Kenyon Martin) into uncomfortable positions away from the paint. The Celtics have been attacking the middle while playing with no center, then kicking out to the perimeter when the Knicks have collapsed. Without Tyson Chandler lurking in the lane, the Celtics have utilized off-the-dribble penetration to bend the defense, forcing the Knicks perimeter defenders into long rotations. This has led to open perimeter jumpers for Terry, Pierce, and Crawford. They haven’t converted consistently in Games One or Two, especially in the second half, but it will be important for New York’s bench units to maintain tight rotations on defense.
Look for a whole lot more Kevin Garnett the rest of the series, but also pay attention to how Doc Rivers deploys these ultra-small ball lineups featuring Jason Terry. When the Celtics do go small, the Knicks need to capitalize on the offensive end. If Terry or Crawford are in the game, the Knicks should immediately look to post them up if they have a size advantage. If there’s no advantage in the post, then running them off a series of staggered screens should free up the Knicks guards for open looks along the perimeter.